FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM)- Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson named 16 members to the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force Monday (April 27).
Two members of the task force are from Washington County. They are Circuit Court Judge Cristi Beaumont and Sheriff Tim Helder. The list also includes the director of the Department of Corrections, the Little Rock Police Chief and several attorneys. To see the full list, click here.
The task force was established by the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2015 (Act 895). The purpose of the legislation is to "implement wide-ranging reforms to the criminal justice system in order to address prison overcrowding, promote seamless reentry into society, reduce medical costs incurred by the state and local governments, aid law enforcement agencies in fighting crime and keeping the peace, and to enhance public safety."
The Senate President Pro Tem and the House Speaker have also named one member each to the task force, so the panel will be made up of 18 people.
Judge Beaumont believes the governor selected her to the panel because of her alternative sentencing background. Beaumont presides over the Washington and Madison County Drug Court and began a new program specifically aimed at veterans who have committed crimes. Both initiatives are designed to keep offenders out of prison and to help rehabilitate them.
"You have to stop the process," she said. "You have to start from the beginning. You have to continually give them treatment so they are not continually going back into the system."
The task force will meet quarterly, starting with their first meeting on April 30. The members are expected to submit an annual report that will review measures that are already in place to fight overcrowding and to make their own recommendations.
According to law enforcement authorities, the overcrowding in the county jails stems from the overcrowding in state prisons. Many inmates are being held in county jails because there's no room for them in the prisons.
"I think the goal is to get long-term help for prison overcrowding in our system," Beaumont said.